Where’s the Aloha? A Genealogy of Local Culture

Wheeler, Jennifer
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University of Hawaii at Manoa
Due to its fluid nature and ability to evolve, local culture is difficult to define. Local identity is often defined by what it is not, what it is in opposition to, or who cannot participate in it. The scholarly discourse which has sought to engage local culture develops an origin story which begins on the plantations, evolves through a shared history of labor oppression, and unifies the people as they make lives for themselves working the sugar or pineapple fields. Almost as soon as it begins, local history ends with racial harmony, and is then absorbed back into the broader narrative of Hawaii’s history. However, this narrative is reductive and does not explain how local identity continues to be racialized. The history of local identity began on the plantations, was shaped by white supremacist ideology, and evolved during historical moments of extreme racial tension. While local history parallels the history of Hawaii, it deserves to be analyzed and chronicled in order to better understand its current incarnation. This thesis seeks to conduct a meaningful analysis of racialized cultural identity and develop a historical narrative of its evolution. In order to achieve this aim, primary source materials such as newspapers, court documents, cartoons, caricatures, and literature will be utilized in conjunction with secondary scholarly sources to construct a narrative. Additionally, oral histories and interviews will be employed to gain a fuller understanding of what local identity is and its connection to historical events.
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